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Nuclear dichotomy

Dec 09,2017
Nuclear reactor technology is about to bring $20 billion of revenue to a country that nearly killed it. Korea Electric Power Corp. has been chosen as the preferred bidder to carry out the Moorside project — building three next-generation nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 3 gigawatts in the United Kingdom.

The deal will be complete once it buys out Toshibas stake in the NuGeneration consortium in charge of the reactor project and gets approval from the governments of Korea and Britain. When finalized, it will be another milestone after Korea’s first export of advanced reactor technology to the United Arab Emirates in 2009. The feat is also meaningful as the nuclear reactor industry is being phased out in Korea.

Unlike the UAE project, the builder is responsible not just for the construction, but also its operation and maintenance as a majority stake owner. The entire business risk falls on the Korean operator. It can only profit when the wholesale price is competitive. Kepco must negotiate with the British government while keeping its eye on national interests.

The Blue House congratulated Kepco. It promised government support. It must not repeat the mistake of sending an aide to a ministerial-level meeting on nuclear reactors in the UAE.

Paik Un-gyu, the minister of trade, industry, and energy, toured potential reactor markets including the U.K. to pitch Korea’s reactor model after his ministry came under fire for the phase-out plan. He signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on nuclear reactor technology with the British government. He was the only one who was not smiling in a photo of the signing ceremony.

The photo underscored the conundrum of the liberal government policy of weaning out nuclear power at home while trying to sell the technology overseas.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 8, Page 38